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The Art of Story Writing : CHAPTER IX Special Stories or Articles

by Nathaniel C. Fowler, JR   

CHAPTER IX Special Stories or Articles

UNDER this heading I will discuss stories with their action on shipboard, on the railroad, or under any other conditions which do not appear in the everyday life of the average man.

Many a writer has produced an unacceptable story, because he has laid the plot upon the railroad though he knew nothing about transportation. The author on the western prairie, who has never seen a vessel larger than a canoe or flat-boat, had better not place his characters upon shipboard, until he has experienced water travel. Do not allow your leading character, or any other prominent one, to bring his business, trade, or profession into the story more than incidentally, unless you are familiar with it.

If you are ignorant of art, do not attempt to make your hero into an artist. If you do not know something of journalism, keep newspaper men out of your story. If you have no knowledge of law, do not try to describe a court scene, except incidentally. If your leading character is a physician, keep away from the practice of his profession, and handle him, not as a doctor, but as a man. You cannot describe anything, or any person, with whom you are unfamiliar.

If, however, you find it necessary to place in your story a specialist, and cannot avoid describing the sensations of that profession, get into close contact with one or more men representing it, and attempt to get their view-points; then, after your story is finished, ask them to criticise that part of it which pertains to the action of their vocation.

It is not necessary for you to be an expert along any special line, but unless you are familiar with it, you cannot properly describe it, or realistically present a character in the environment of his trade or under other conditions peculiar to his calling or tastes.